I've been doing my own forms of research about the American Civil War, and about the role of civil wars both historically and currently. The specific approach I'm taking is an investigation of the impact of war on medicine, as seen through an American Civil War nurse and a military surgeon in Iraq. The project translates from idea to body to idea themes such as the fear of failure which, to a healer, is a matter of life and death; the way we anesthetize patients with ether, chloroform, opium, or hope; images of battlefield spirits gathering souls as they join the Daughters of Charity at Gettysburg, each drawing strength from its African or European ancestors; the discovery that the soldier being autopsied is actually female; and a possible encounter of two great nurses Clara Barton and Walt Whitman who might later appear in the 21st century as Old Love.
The subject is deeply interesting. Why is there such innovation in medicine during the crisis of war? Do we understand ourselves, our history, and our current relationship to warriors by looking at their situation while diseased, wounded, or dying? How does the healer survive the setting? I hope that with additional guidance from the theater community both in casting and direction, I will be able to find fresh and wily solutions to the ongoing tension I find between abstraction and realism, between emotion and ideas, between information and feeling. I anticipate new ways to frame the story, the emotion, and the experience, while continuing to develop a deeper palette of powerful movement. As in recent work, I am exploring projections as a means of concretizing the setting, action, the emotion through the use of old movies, animation, and graphics as moving images.<./p>
I am not alone. I have amazing collaborators including dancers Tamara Pullman (recently of the Dance Exchange), Samantha Spies (recently of Urban Bush Women), Merritt Moore (recently of Boston Ballet), Alli Ross and Ted Johnson (she recently of Sleep No More in Boston and New York City, he currently in the New York City cast), plus screen actor Bill Pullman (Independence Day, Wyatt Earp, and Torchwood, to name but a few), sound designer Darron West (SITI Company), and media designers Kate Freer and Dave Tennent (recently of Chimera).
I am getting enormous help from clinicians, soldiers, medial historians, and doctors. People want to talk and think and help make sense of these large events. The stories are everywhere. Stay tuned.
Healing Wars was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Healing Wars trailer from Arena Stage premiere, June 2014